Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds
I’m aware of the inflammatory nature of the previous statement, but I like to keep it as real as possible on this blog. Trust me, no one is more upset than I am that I haven’t gotten on board with this trendy green. I’d actually like nothing more than to fall in love with kale, since admitting to other foodies/healthy eaters that I’m not a fan tends to go over about as well as when I tell people that I don’t really like dogs or babies.
Obviously, I am familiar with the superfood qualities that kale possesses, but in case you are not, I shall briefly summarize them for you. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, people. It’s packed with calcium, fiber, and mass quantities of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as a host of essential minerals. It also has several sulphur-containing phytonutrients that amp up your body’s natural detox power, such as kaempferol, which apparently activates longevity genes. Kale fights cancer. It prevents heart disease. It promotes brain health and clear skin. Plus, the leafy green clocks in at a mere 33 calories per cup, so eating it will definitely make you skinnier. Kale is magic.
As you may know by now, I’m a sucker for foods with extreme health benefits, especially when they promise to make me smarter and prettier (see: Domesticate ME!’s love affair with sweet potatoes). As a result, disliking kale has caused me a significant amount of stress. Sure, I choke down a green juice every few weeks, and I’ll pick at a kale salad when it’s the only option, but I certainly don’t ingest enough kale to noticeably improve my brain function or skin glowy-ness. This makes me sad.
In an effort to become more pro-kale, I have been doing a solid amount of experimenting with the super green of late. I’ve tried blending it in smoothies, wilting it in soups, steaming it, sautéing it, baking it as “chips” (hate), and using it as a raw base for salads. None of these kale “situations” were terrible, but they certainly weren’t great, and as of a few weeks ago. I had pretty much given up all hope on the kale front.
And then my kale miracle happened.
Last weekend, I accompanied my roommate to The Smith for dinner with some friends. It was packed, and despite our reservation, we waited more than half an hour for our table. There was a bar, so I couldn’t have cared less, but our hostess felt very guilty for making us wait, and the restaurant was kind enough to send us a complimentary kale salad. After a few cocktails, I was displeased that we were gifted free kale instead of tater tots, but I now realize that it was fate.
That kale was a game changer for me. The finely chopped greens were incredibly tender (versus tough and chewy) and subtly dressed with lemon, olive oil and a hint of garlic. The sweetness of dried cranberries balanced the bitterness of the kale, and toasted almonds added an amazing, nutty crunch. There was also a decent amount of quinoa involved, which gave the salad extra heartiness, while still keeping things light, and a dusting of grated Parmesan really tied everything together. After the first tentative bite, I was sold.
I’m not going to lie, I’m still far from a kale convert, but I am slowly warming to it, and I’ve recreated this Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberry and Toasted Almonds twice since my trip to The Smith. I can honestly say that it is a pretty awesome creation. And if I’m into it, imagine how all you kale-loving freaks will feel about it. Prepare yourselves.
The best part about this salad is that it actually tastes better the next day. The longer the kale marinates in the dressing, the more tender it becomes, so it’s the type of thing that you could easily make a big batch of on a Sunday and then eat all week long. As far as salads go, this one looks very pretty and impressive on a platter, and I highly recommend serving it as an appetizer when entertaining, or even as a wildly healthy Thanksgiving side. (My family would never let me serve kale at Thanksgiving, but perhaps yours is more alternative.)
Speaking of Thanksgiving, I am aware that we are getting very close to the big day. Don’t worry, I’m about to drop some T-Day recipes on you, but please try this kale salad in preparation. Since I believe in eating one’s weight in Thanksgiving favorites for at least three days, I like to go into the holiday feeling as Gwyneth-like as possible. I suggest you do the same.
P.S. If you’re super antsy for Thanksgiving recipes, I made a Perfect Thanksgiving Pinterest board to inspire you. You’re welcome.
Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds: (Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side)
1 bunch dinosaur or lacinato kale
1 cup cooked quinoa
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh Ground Pepper
Preparing your Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds:
-Start by making your dressing. Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set aside while you prepare your kale. (This will soften the shallots and allow the flavors to mingle).
-The first thing you need to do is remove the ribs from your kale. Don’t panic, there is a very simple way to do this. Start by tearing away about an inch on each side of the kale’s stalk to form “flaps.”
-While your kale is wilting, toast the almonds. Place the sliced almonds in a pan (with no oil!) and toast for 3-4 minutes until they are golden brown and fragrant.
-Transfer your salad to a serving platter or plates, top with the remaining almonds and cranberries, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Here’s to your health, friends!
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